A step by step account of how Airbus paid bribes to Ghanaian officials

The JEA Mills-led government and the Mahama-led administration have been separately cited in a major corruption case involving the procurement of C-295 military aircrafts for Ghana.

Airbus, has confessed to paying bribes in Ghana and other countries between 2011 and 2015 in a corruption investigation of its business deals dating back more than a decade.

UK court documents reviewed by iWatch Africa show that Europe’s largest plane maker has been fined 3 billion pounds for greasing the palms of public officials and fixers over a string of hidden payments as part of a pattern of worldwide corruption to facilitate the sales of its wares.

Below is a step by step guide on details of the scheme that cost the Ghanaian taxpayer 3.9 million euros.

1. The unnamed government Official 1 was a key decision-maker in respect of the government of Ghana aircraft orders between 2009 to 2015.

2. The unnamed Intermediary 5 is a UK national born in Ghana. He migrated to the United Kingdom as a young child and lost touch with his Ghanaian family until the late 1990s. He had no prior experience or expertise in the aerospace industry. A “CV” provided to Airbus in 2011 listed his employment before 2009 as an events manager for a local authority, director of a football merchandising company and facilities manager for an estate management business.

3. Intermediary 5 was assisted in his Airbus work by two other UK nationals: Intermediary 6 and Intermediary 7(both unnamed). The two have no aerospace experience or expertise. A CV that Intermediary 6 provided to Airbus in 2011 listed his 2009 employment as a UK television Actor and Film Director. Intermediary 7 was also a former UK television actor.

4. Contact between Airbus and the Government of Ghana about aircraft sales began in June 2009 following an expression of interest by the Government of Ghana. By August 2009, a senior Airbus employee reported that he was in touch with Government Official 1 and ‘his team’.

5. Airbus employee 16 (unnamed) was the Spanish salesperson responsible for handling all the Ghana transactions.

6. On December 7, 2009, a company of Intermediary 5 and 6 (named Company D) was incorporated in Ghana. The company’s profile submitted by Intermediary 6 to Airbus in June 2011 stated that Intermediary 5 and Intermediary 6 were its directors.  A company of the same name was incorporated in the UK in February 2010. Company D was the corporate vehicle through which Intermediary 5 and his associates provided services to Airbus.

7. Using another intermediary company (intermediary 8) Airbus paid €3,850,115 to Company D as consultation fees for the first two aircraft. It, however, failed to an extra €1,675,000, it promised to pay Company D for the third aircraft.

8. From 2009, Intermediary 5 and his associates worked on the sales to the Government of Ghana without any written consultant agreement. This included liaison with Government Official 1 regarding the potential Airbus C-295 sale.

9. In January 2011, Government Official 1, intermediaries 5 and 6 met in London. It was at this meeting that Airbus C-295 was agreed upon as the most suitable aircraft for the Government of Ghana’s needs. This was reported to Airbus.

10. By April 2011 Airbus employee 16 reported to his Airbus colleagues that the deal was close to being finalised. Airbus employee 16 then asked Intermediary 5 and Intermediary 6 to transmit a letter to Government Official 1 and explain a possible delay. Airbus employee 16 also asked them to secure meetings with the Ghanaian Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Finance.

11. Company D submitted a formal business partnership (BP) application in May 2011. On July 8, 2011, Intermediary 6 sent a senior Airbus employee 15 a ‘[Company D] update’. He reported that he had just returned from Ghana “having had very productive meetings with all parties.

12. Following the May 2011, BP application, Airbus commissioned an external due diligence report on Company D. The resulting report dated September 302011 identified Intermediary 5 as a shareholder and the possibility that he was a close relative of Government Official 1.

13. The external due diligence report raised concerns that there was a risk of nonconformity with the  Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention, which set corporate governance benchmarks to reduce global corruption.

14. On 3 August 2011, Airbus’ Spanish Defence Subsidiary and the government of Ghana signed a purchase agreement for the sale of the two C-295 aircraft.

15. The consultant agreement between Intermediary 8 and Airbus was dated 20 March 2012 but said to be effective from January 1, 2010.

16. The agreement provided for a percentage commission fee of the net total amount received by Airbus under any commercial contract with the Government of Ghana for C-295 aircraft.

17. Between March 2012 and February 2014, Airbus paid Intermediary 8 a total of €3,909,756.85, a sum over the agreed commission amount as per the ECA declaration (€3,001,718.15).

18 . Between 10 April 2012 and 31 July 2013 Intermediary 8 paid €3,850,115 to Company D. Intermediary 8 retained about €60,000.

19. Between 2012 and 2013 Airbus attempted to arrange the sale of two further C295 aircraft to an Irish aircraft finance leasing company for onward use by the government of Ghana.

20. The first two military aircraft arrived in Ghana on November 17, 2011, and March 19, 2012

21. After the failure of this lease campaign, the government of Ghana decided to purchase a third C-295 direct from Airbus. This arrived on December 4, 2015, but company D did not benefit financially from it as Airbus refused to pay the promised kickback.

By Gideon Sarpong | iWatch Africa

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Gideon Sarpong

Gideon Sarpong is a policy analyst and media practitioner with close to a decade of experience in policy, data and investigative journalism. Gideon is a co-founder of iWatch Africa. He is an author; a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), Thomson Reuters Foundation, Commonwealth Youth Program ,Free Press Unlimited and Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative. Gideon is the founder of Sustainable Ocean Alliance Ghana. He was a 2021 Policy Leader Fellow at the European University Institute, School of Trans-national Governance in Florence, Italy and 2020/21 Open Internet For Democracy Leader. Gideon was also a 2022 Visiting Scholar/Reuters Fellow at the University of Oxford, UK and was selected as a 2022 TRF/Trust Conference Changemaker. He is currently the Africa Regional Cordinator for Environmental Justice Foundation and a 2023 Pulitzer ORN Fellow. Email: gideonsarpong@iwatchafrica.org.

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